According to Kai Wulf, Park Manager at the Saba Conservation Foundation, about 60 percent of Saba’s nature was devastated as a result of the recent hurricane Irma. “Of course it looks really, really bad right now, but we are looking to the future very positively. Over the centuries, nature has learned to cope with such events. So sooner or later, the nature will come back. Sometimes these events also act as a renewal,” said Wulf. The top priorities of the foundation and it’s team of volunteers are clearing the hiking trails and combating further damage to the land and sea.
According to Park Ranger James Johnson, hurricane Irma was worse than Hurricane Lenny of 1998. “Then, hurricane Lenny destroyed all the tall mahogany trees. But, basically, this was a natural cycle. At that time, the forest was nearly 400 years old. This event actually helped to accelerate renewal of the forest. I’m very positive, that nature will find its way to regrow. Once we can get rain, you will see it come back in full again. Probably within 3 months we will have all the trails reopened,” he reassured.
Most of the trees in the forest have lost their foliage. “We can try to save some of the trees, but they need to be properly pruned. We can’t leave them as they are right now because they may die. So hopefully, by pruning some of the trees, we can try to save them and also prevent them from becoming infected by diseases,” Wulf explained.
Also the bird life is in stress. However, there are ways, the local community can help nature regain its natural course. “For example, we can help to restore bird life which was already under a lot of stress due due to invasive predators like cats, rats, etc. At the moment, the birds are out of food sources , so what we can do, is to put up bird feeders. These bird feeders are usually sold by the Saba Conservation Foundation, but at the moment they are being given away for free to encourage the community to help feed the birds.”, Wulf said.
Some of the core dive nurseries have been severely damaged. The priority is to get the key dive nurseries back up. “We want to try to combat further damage by invasive fish. So we would like to get our lion fish program back up as soon as possible.”, Wulf said. “We want to buy lion fish traps to more actively remove them from the reefs. They do have a tremendous impact especially during the recovery times. If you don’t have those little feeders or fish who feed on algae for example, that could have an additional impact. There is certainly no way to deny that we are in a climate change. We have to prepare our self for more severe storms in the next decades,” Kai warned.
Wulf added, that the outside world can support Saba by not cancelling their travel plans. They should come to the island they love so much. Even though everything will not be perfectly back up, keeping our economy going helps everybody. The Saba Conservation Foundation relies on fees from tourists. “If there would be no dive fees or nature fees we would not be able to operate. So everything is totally interlinked.”, Wulf said.
Caribbean Network – Hazel Durand